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Biden, Obama Criticize Trump's Leadership In Socially-Distanced Meeting; Biden Campaign Ad Touts His Experience Being "Tested"; Alberto Carvalho, Superintendent, Miami-Dade Public Schools, Discusses County Pushing Forward With Plans To Reopen Schools; Source: U.S. Ambassador To U.K. Accused Of Sexist, Racist Comments & Pushing To Have British Open Played At Trump Golf Course; Extra $600 Unemployment Benefit Set To Expire Within Days. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired July 22, 2020 - 11:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Former President Obama stepping up his role in the 2020 campaign and helping Joe Biden make his case, the leadership case against President Trump.

We learned today that Obama and Biden met in Washington earlier this month for a socially-distanced conversation now being released as a campaign video. Here is a snippet.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Can you imagine standing up when you were president and saying, it's not my responsibility. I take no responsibility. I mean, literally.


BIDEN: Literally.

OBAMA: Those words didn't come out of our mouths while we were in office.

BIDEN: No. No.


KING: CNN's Arlette Saenz is here with more.

Important help for the former vice president from the boss?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, certainly, John. And, typically, in a pre-COVID world, this type of Obama-Biden reunion would be playing out in person.

But with the coronavirus pandemic completely transforming the way campaigning is works right now, the Biden campaign has gotten creative with how they're using their top surrogate.

This video was taped a little over 10 days ago in Washington at President Obama's office here. And you saw the two men walking into the building, wearing masks, something Biden has repeatedly stressed over and over at his events.

And they talked about President Trump's leadership in this moment, saying that he is not taking responsibility and also is unable to relate with people in the middle of this coronavirus pandemic.

And President Obama made the case for his former vice president, Joe Biden, by talking about Biden's ability to relate with people.

Take a listen to what he had to say.


OBAMA: One of the things that I have always known about you, Joe, it's the reason why I wanted you to be my vice president and the reason you were so effective.

It all starts with being able to relate. If you can sit down with a family and see your own family in them and the struggles that you've gone through or your parents went through or your kids are going through, if you can connect those struggles to somebody else's struggles, then you're going to work hard for them.


SAENZ: The Biden campaign says that full video will be released tomorrow. But this clearly shows President Obama stepping up his involvement in this campaign for his former vice president.

And, John, one thing we are told that they did not discuss when they met in person that day, they didn't talk about Biden's upcoming V.P. pick, which is just a few weeks away.

KING: He can pick up the phone if he wants to go through that one. Arlette, there may be other conversations, but that's an important video.

Arlette, thanks for the reporting.

And let's continue the conversation and get some insights from the former senior adviser to President Obama, and the host of "THE AXE FILES" here on CNN, David Axelrod.

David, good to see you.

You know both of these men very well. Let's go through part of this. We always knew Obama would help Joe Biden. Why is it important at this moment? And what do you think of the way they're doing it? We are living in this brave new world, a socially distanced conversation and the video, not rallies around the country.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & CNN HOST, "THE AXE FILES": Yes, you have to make do with what you have. And so I thought that was good.

And the way they're using Obama here is really interesting to me because, you know, as much as Joe Biden has been a fixture on the national scene for a very long time, he's not all that well known. The specifics of what he's done are not that well known.

The specifics of where he wants to go is something that he's focused on right now. And here he's using Obama as a validator and a very powerful validator, a guy who is highly respected and high ratings from the public.

And he -- and I suspect that they'll go through a list of some of the top issues that they think are in Biden's advantage here to talk about what they did, and also about what Biden wants to do.

So Obama is playing the role of validator in chief right here.

KING: A validator in chief. And the themes they discussed leadership.

And also a big theme in the Biden campaign, an ad blitz going on right now. Let's take a snippet of that. It echoes what you just heard.


AD NARRATOR: In a crisis, you're tested. As a nation, we've been tested before, and he has, too. Now we're being tested again. And Joe Biden knows the answer is not ignoring the crisis, bailing out big corporations and dividing a nation in pain.


KING: We're in the middle of this pandemic. Obviously, President Trump is an incumbent in his leadership and the pandemic will be issue number one. Is that the right approach right now? If you're Biden, do you follow the news, focus the news or would you do something different?


AXELROD: No, I really would, John. The fact is, if you look at all of the polling -- and I know you're a sedulous student of this - Trump's fall has been really twined up with his handling of the virus.

His ratings on the virus are very low. His ratings on his handling of race is very low, as he seeks to kind of weaponize divisions in this country for his own political advantage.

And these are things that are dragging him down, particularly in those very critical suburban communities where Democrats have made great gains since Trump's been president.

So I think setting up that contrast is very important for Biden. And it's one of the things that's propelled him into a double-digit lead in this race.

KING: We've had a lot of time to talk about the former vice president. So I'll come back to that.

I want to focus on the last question here on President Obama, who we know has a history with President Trump. President Trump fueled the Birther movement. There's no love lost between these two men.

How much is he itching to be part of this? I'm assuming he is frustrated and the former vice president would love to be rallying with him around the country and I assume he is as well.

What is his take on this moment in the race?

AXELROD: John, my impression just from the conversations I've had with him and also because of the way that I know him is that he is surprisingly little focused on these personal slights.

But he is concerned about the policy direction of the present day and the erosion of democratic institutions.

He views this as a critical election not just because Joe Biden was his vice president and not just because Joe Biden was his friend and not because Donald Trump has been relentlessly antagonistic with him, but because of what has happened during Trump years.

And I suspect he'll be very active in this campaign. He'll pick his spots. He won't be a daily commentator. But he's clearly going to do whatever he thinks is appropriate to help Biden win this election.

KING: David Axelrod, grateful for your time today.


KING: Grateful for our viewers to David Axelrod, not just a smart strategist. You see over his shoulder. He's a collector of great memorabilia, as well. And great samples behind you.

David, good to see you.

Coming up for us next, states struggling now on how to keep students safe. Can they get back to school in the fall? We'll check in with the Miami-Dade school superintendent next.



KING: The Trump administration is urging schools to reopen. Just today, for example, the CDC director saying it is safe in most places if everyone wears a mask and they are social distancing in the classroom.

But more and more big school districts across the country aren't buying that. At least not yet. New York City waiting until August to decide. In L.A., the district will begin with online remote learning. And Chicago will attempt to mix with online and in-person.

And in south Florida, Miami-Dade, another big test. The nation's fourth-largest school district, more than 350,000 students and 18,000 teachers across 500 schools.

Alberto Carvalho is superintendent for the Miami-Dade school system.

Sir, grateful for your time today.

You have a number of parameters and I just want to go through them. To re-open your schools and get the in-person learning, sustained COVID- 19 positivity rate of less than 10 percent, a steady reduction of the number of individuals hospitalized in your community, sustained reduction in ICU bed occupancy, increased COVID-19 test availability, decreased wait time, increase in the quantity and the quality of contact tracing.

As of today, if you had to make that decision, students would not be going to school, right?


As of today, based on that criteria and metrics, it would not be appropriate for us to bring students back to school.

We have a positivity rate of 19.2. The critical impact on hospitals specific to ICU bed capacity is at 132 percent. That tells us that the conditions are not currently appropriate for us to be able to teach kids, while, at the same time, safeguard their well-being and case.

KING: Yesterday, Governor DeSantis says the state is on the right course. When it comes to your decision, I assume that tells me, today, you don't see you're on the right course.

When do you have to make a final decision about when children will come back to the classroom? And do you see a possibility of getting there in time?

CARVALHO: Well, our first day of schooling is projected to be August 24th and we're about a month away. And it is my goal and my intent to make a final announcement to the community sometime between July 29th and August 3rd based on the latest information available to us.

And our decision-making process has been informed all along by some of the best medical minds in public health officials, not only in our community, but in our country. And we will continue to be guided by science and data.

But, look, we have to recognize one thing. I think what the CDC recently announced is true. There are many places in America where returning to physical schooling is absolutely appropriate as long as people follow the recommendations.


But we need to recognize that there are significant differences in terms of environmental conditions and health conditions across the country and sometimes even within our state.

Miami-Dade is the epicenter of COVID-19 right now, as we speak, with conditions similar to those reflected in China six months ago.

KING: And so I want you to listen here. This is the vice president of the United States and the nation's top infectious disease experts saying, aspirationally, they think it's important to get those kids back in the classroom.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can tell you, with my wife were sitting right here, if my kids were elementary age or high school or college, we wouldn't hesitate to send them back to school.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We should try, as best as we possibly can, to get the children back to school.

And make sure you do whatever you can to safeguard the safety and the health of the children as well as the teachers, and that should guide your policy.


KING: Are you getting helpful information from Washington or do you view comments like that as simply a lecture that might not understand the circumstances on the ground in your community?

CARVALHO: We continue to be guided by CDC recommendations and their updates, the Florida Department of Health recommendations as well as our local health department guidelines.

I know that sometimes it may be a bit confusing, but we are not under any pressure to do the wrong thing. We are under tremendous pressure to do the right thing.

And I want to be clear about one thing, John. The best place for kids to learn and for kids to be taught is in a schoolhouse with a teacher who organically imparts information, recognizing the cognitive development needs, and the social and emotional needs of children.

However, we cannot speak about that ignoring the environmental issues facing our communities. And those vary from place to place.

Now in the state of Florida, we have been given the flexibility to take into account a reopening of schools that takes, as its primary influencer, the local health department information. That's exactly what we are doing.

We have a plan that relies on parental choice. We have a plan that includes remote, continuous synchronous learning for parents if they so opt. We have a plan that includes returning students to a five-day- a-week option based on improved conditions.

But those conditions will improve not because of anything people in schools will do. They will improve if the community takes seriously the wearing of masks, the maintaining the social distancing and the washing of hands and avoiding the congregation of individuals.

That is what will reduce the level of infection, the positivity rate in our communities, making it possible for a full resumption of schooling that we know is best for kids.

We are aware of the deleterious effects that the lack in school have on the lives of children.

KING: Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, we wish you the best as you make this very difficult decision. We hope the numbers improve that makes it an easier decision for you. We'll circle back in a couple of weeks as you get to the conclusion.

Appreciate your time today, sir.

CARVALHO: Thank you, John.

KING: Thank you.

Up next for us, a CNN exclusive. President Trump's ambassador to the United Kingdom investigated for alleged racist and sexist remarks.



KING: CNN learned Woody Johnson, billionaire NFL owner, serves as president ambassador to the United Kingdom, was investigated by the State Department watchdog over allegations he made racist and sexist remarks and accusations he tried to use this government position to push to have the British Open held at one of the president's golf courses.

Our national security correspondent, Kylie Atwood has the exclusive report.

Kylie, what do we know?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we've learned a lot over the course of our reporting here, John.

The top line is that, as you said, Ambassador Woody Johnson has been investigated by the State Department watchdog, the inspector general, due to allegations that he made racist and sexist comments to staff at the U.S. embassy in the U.K. where he is the ambassador.

Also allegations that he sought to use his government post to try and push business to the Trump properties, to the president's personal golf course in Scotland.

So let's kind of tick through some of what our reporting. On the racist allegations, Ambassador Woody Johnson is said to have questioned why the black community would want a specific month to commemorate Black History Month.

He questioned, when embassy officials were putting together an event to commemorate black history month, that it would be full of black people. And he also said that the real challenge is that fathers are not present in the families of the African-American community.

A source who heard those remarks told us they were stunned that the ambassador would say those things.

When it comes to the allegations of sexist actions and remarks, Ambassador Woody Johnson, we are told, hosted official gatherings at a men's-only club in London and was told by another diplomat at the embassy he could not do that. So he ceased those. But there were other comments he made to embassy officials.

And the allegations that he tried to pressure a U.K. government official to host the Open -- that's a prestigious golf tournament, a British golf tournament -- at the president's personal Turnberry Golf Course.


KING: Very important reporting.

Kylie, appreciate it. Stick to it and come back when we learn more about this.

When we come back, extra unemployment benefits Congress approved for the coronavirus -- set to run out.


KING: Americans tossed out of work because the coronavirus could soon see big drop in unemployment checks. The extra $600 Congress added is about to expire. There's significant opposition in Congress to extending the bonus.

CNN Business editor-at-large, anchor of "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS," Richard Quest, is here to walk us through this very big debate -- Richard?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: It's really simple, John. That $600 a week was a lifeline to the tens of millions of Americans who suddenly found themselves out of work with, of course, existing debts.

The argument goes, how do you know move those people back on to the payrolls where, in some cases, they may be earning more still on unemployment. And also that $600 is extremely expensive for the federal government.

Everybody accepts, John, some deal will be put forward. You cannot suddenly put all of these millions, who are out of work, and deny them this extra money. But do you balance it by creating a bonus to go back to work, which is given to employees to pay to them?

It's a very tricky argument for the government. But at the end of the day, John, the core of it is the help necessary for those thrown out of work by COVID. That $600, in some shape or form, will have to be returned back.


KING: We'll watch this one, a debate for the Congress.